The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 3

We now turn to the Late Bustle Period from 1882 through 1890. Unlike the brief period before it, the bustle returned with a vengeance, now more angular and sharply defined, with harder edges than its predecessor in the 1870s. Below are some examples of the later bustle:

Bustle, 1883 - 1887

Bustle, Cotton, Metal, Copper, c.1883 – 1887; FIDM Museum Library (2005.5.174)

Bustle, Steel Frame, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle, British, Steel Frame, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle Pad, French, . 1885Glazed calico trimmed with silk cord and stuffed with what appears to be straw; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

Bustle Pad, French, c. 1885; Glazed calico trimmed with silk cord and stuffed with what appears to be straw; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

From just the few examples above, it’s evident that that bustles during this period came in a variety of materials and shapes. However, in contrast with earlier bustles, these are shorter, concentrated around the natural waist.

Below is a an excellent example of the “shelf bustle” profile characteristic of the mid- 1880s. The “shelf bustle” profile was found in both day dresses and more formal evening and reception dresses. As could be expected, the formal dresses tended to be more dramatic and extreme in profile and the length of the train.

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 - 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 – 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

The above evening dress epitomizes the sculpted “shelf bustle” that is characteristic of the 1880s. However, elements of the 1870s still remain: the bodice is remains at waist level and draped skirts are utilized to create a dramatic effect with the skirts being arranged to show off the pleating and trim to its fullest advantage. The is certainly the diametric opposite of the sleek, vertical lines characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era.

Dinner Dress, French, c. 1883, Worth. Wine-red silk satin cut velvet with stripes and leaf pattern; figured additional cut velvet layer on leaf pattern; set of bodice and skirt with bustle; tulle and silk satin bows at cuffs; apron-shaped overskirt draped toward back. This dress of silk satin and cut velvet stripes is scattered with a roseleaf motif of cut and uncut velvet, causing shading of the motif. These beautiful materials, with a woven thickness created using complex techniques, show the high quality of Lyon silk textile. The overskirt, draped and gathered into an apron style, and the train greatly contribute to the dignified production of this bustle style dress. Kyoto Costume Institute (AC9712 98-29-2AB)

Dinner Dress, French, c. 1883, Worth. Wine-red silk satin cut velvet with stripes and leaf pattern; figured additional cut velvet layer on leaf pattern; set of bodice and skirt with bustle; tulle and silk satin bows at cuffs; apron-shaped overskirt draped toward back. This dress of silk satin and cut velvet stripes is scattered with a roseleaf motif of cut and uncut velvet, causing shading of the motif. These beautiful materials, with a woven thickness created using complex techniques, show the high quality of Lyon silk textile. The overskirt, draped and gathered into an apron style, and the train greatly contribute to the dignified production of this bustle style dress. Kyoto Costume Institute (AC9712 98-29-2AB)

Day Dress 1880_1

Day Dress, c. 1880 – Front View

Day Dress, c. 1880

Day Dress, c. 1880 – Side View

Day Dress 1880_4

Day Dress c. 1880 – Rear View

Although the above two examples are day and evening dresses, they both have similar characteristics in that they exhibit the shelf bustle AND the draping of excess skirts characteristic of the early 1870s. One could almost terms this a hybrid style.

However, at the same time, the cuirass bodice characteristic of the Mid Bustle Era made its return, characterized by the bodice now lengthening to cover the hips. With the cuirass bodice, one can also see a reduction in the bustle size and a softening of the bustle angle in which the “shelf” beings to become more curved. Also at the same time, the excess skirts are reduced and there is no draping except for the area below the bustle. The dress below illustrates these trends excellently:

Day Dress, French, c. 1885; Silk plain weave (taffeta) and silk plain weave with warp-float patterning and supplementary weft, and silk knotted tassel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

Day Dress, French, c. 1885; Silk plain weave (taffeta) and silk plain weave with warp-float patterning and supplementary weft, and silk knotted tassel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

Day Dress 1885_13

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 – Rear View

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 - Front View

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 – Front View

While there was an overlapping in styles during the Late Bustle Era of the mid to late 1880s, it is evident that the overall style was moving towards a more upright style with the bustle evolving into a vestigial pad.

1889ladies

The Young Ladies’ Journal, 1889

As it can be seen from the above fashion plate, the bustle was pretty much gone and both the dresses and bodices were more tailored and hints at what was to come later during the 1890s.

The Bustle Era never fails to fascinate the modern viewer in that the concept of using elaborate undergarments (eg, the corset) and bustles to achieve a desired aesthetic look runs so counter to fashion aesthetics today. However, the basic idea still lingers one in the form of various form-shaping foundations garments and in some cases even the bustle has been revived in a modified form.

Finally, I leave you with this image:

Modern Day Wedding Gown

Modern Day Wedding Gown

Nothing is really new in the fashion world…. 🙂

One thought on “The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 3

  1. Pingback: More From The Atelier: Fall Fashions Continued | Lily Absinthe

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